Rome - Nov. 25-Dec.1 - Single Traveler - Help Refine my Lists
I will be visiting Rome soon, and, while I've tried to do my homework to make it a great culinary as well as cultural experience, I would really appreciate some seasoned Chowhound advice on several points.
I am a single female traveler, and I plan to dine alone for all of my meals. Most of my meals will be casual affairs. For this trip, I'm concentrating on relatively simple and comforting foods done well. I love pasta, pizza, baked goods, gelato and the like. For dinners and a couple special lunches, though, I hope to dine at sit-down restaurants. I have heard mixed reports on how welcome I should expect to feel as a single diner, though, even if I try to be considerate by booking for the earliest possible seatings and order at least a couple of courses. I would be grateful if you all could let me know your thoughts on this generally and also more specifically for the restaurants I have on my list.
And that brings me to my other big request. Namely, I have chosen far more places to try than I am likely to be able to fit into my ~6-day trip. If you all could scan my list and let me know if you think that some of my selections don't merit a visit, that would help me make sure I make it to the very best.
Here's what I've got:
Formal Restaurants – Reservations needed for dinner; request hotel assistance 1-2 days in advance; book as close to opening as possible, out of consideration as a solo diner.
a. Ditirambo - Mon Dinner
b. Pratolina - Tue Dinner
c. Trattoria Primo Sale - Wed Lunch
d. Gatta Mangiona - Wed Dinner
e. Il Sorpasso - Thu Lunch
f. L'Arcangelo - Thu Dinner
g. Cesare al Casaletto - Fri Dinner
h. Perilli - Sat Dinner
Casual Restaurants – No reservations needed; drop-in lunches.
d. Forno la Renella (included primarily for proximity to hotel)
e. Caffe del Chiostro del Bramante (included primarily for atmospheric appeal)
f. Pinsere Roma
g. Antico Forno Urbani
h. Pizzeria Ivo Stefanelli (included primarily for proximity to hotel)
a. Forno di' Campo Fiori
b. Antico Forno Roscioli
c. Panificio Bonci
d. Forno Boccione
e. Pasticceria Andrea De Bellis
f. Biscottificio Innocenti
g. Nonna Vicenza
h. Pasticceria Regoli
i. Cristalli di Zucchero
j. Pasticceria Andreotti
Il Gelato Fantasia (Claudio Torce)
b. Come il Latte
d. Fior di Luna
g. Gelato del Teatro
a. Confetteria Moriondo e Gariglio
Finally, if you think I'm mistaken in any of the notes I've made on my lists, please let me know that, as well.
Thank you so much, in advance, for your help! I will be sure to return after my trip to report on my experiences.
I've returned from my trip, which was absolutely wonderful, and I wanted to share my impressions of some of my dining experiences. It seems the least I can do, since you all were so generous with your advice. So, here goes:
-- Dittirambo: I ordered a sampler plate of vegetarian starters and fresh pasta with a crab and artichoke tomato sauce for my main dish. I enjoyed both. Every item on the sampler plate was tasty and of very good quality with two of the items being outstanding. I am afraid I don't recall what they actually were called, but one resembled a small eggplant parmesan and the other was uncannily like a classic meatball with tomato sauce. Both were warm and savory and very satisfying. The homemade pasta was a real treat, too, though I think perhaps I prefer my seafood pastas in white wine sauces.
-- Pratolina: I went here for my first evening's jet-lagged dinner. I made an ordering miscalculation. I didn't realize how substantial the pizza would be. So, after having indulged in a starter, I could not make it even halfway through the pizza. It was rich and delicious, though, with sausage and pecorino and tomato sauce. The server was exceptionally friendly and welcoming, too.
-- Trattoria Monte - I had my final meal in Rome here, and it was an outstanding experience -- perhaps my favorite meal of the trip! My server was incredibly kind and helpful, the atmosphere was warm and welcoming, and the food was great. I created my meal by selecting 3 starters, and each dish offered a totally new experience for me. I started with a soup that had a savory clear broth with curious little pasta-like noodles in it that were, in fact, comprised entirely of bread and cheese. It was delicious and perfectly balanced between lightness (to leave room for following courses) and substance (to take the edge off my hunger and to counter the chill of the day). Next, I had a cold "flan" of radicchio and asiago cheese. I had never had anything like it before, and I was delighted with it. I loved the slightly bitter notes imparted by the radicchio which were nicely offset by the deep savoriness of the asiago. Finally, I had a sampler plate of yummy fried tidbits. The classic fried squash blossom was an excellent example of its kind, but my favorite items were, again, delicious surprises -- a fried olive stuffed with meaty goodness of some sort and fried ball of vanilla custard. My only regret is that I did not experience this sooner, because I surely would have found time for a return visit.
-- Gatta Mangiona - I over-ordered here, too. Seemed to be a habit with me at the pizza restaurants. I can surely think of worse habits, though. ;-) The classic suppli here was indeed extra tasty, and I loved the pizza. I was particularly smitten with the crust. I loved the blistered crispy chewiness of it, and the toppings for my classic margherita were perfectly proportioned to allow that wonderful crust to shine.
-- Il Sorpasso - This was, I think, my second favorite dining experience in Rome. I went for lunch and sat at the bar. My server was a delight -- so personable and smilely and just the right amount of chatty. I loved the atmosphere of this place, as well. It managed to pull off a sort of sophisticated cute -- i.e. cute without being cutesy. But cute alone would not have won my affections. That was managed by the wonderful pasta e fagioli soup I had and the chicken in white wine sauce trappezini. The soup was thick and surprisingly rich with, I believe, homemade short pasta strips in it. It was totally unlike the vegetable broth-based pasta e fagioli soups I've had in the U.S. with shell or corkscrew pasta and loose whole beans and vegetables. Instead, it was almost like a black bean soup in consistently with that super yummy homemade pasta. And the trappezini was oh so flavorful with wonderfully moist savory chicken filling and a delightfully soft-yet-crispy pizza bianca-style triangle to contain it all.
-- L'Arcangelo - I had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner of suppli and gnocchi amatriciana here. Both dishes were excellent. I particularly loved the gnocchi. How they managed to make them simultaneously light and hearty is a mystery to me, but that's was they were. The cauliflower soup provided as an amuse bouche was a surprise highlight for the meal, too -- so silky smooth, aromatic, and subtly flavored. This was a meal that was obviously prepared with care by people who really know their craft.
-- Armando al Pantheon - This was probably my third favorite meal. I really enjoyed the old school classy vibe of the restaurant. That old school charm extended to the food, as well. My eggplant parmesan appetizer was perhaps the best example of this dish I have ever had, and my spaghetti alla gricia was very tasty. It had the strangest property of never seeming to diminish in volume no matter how much I ate or how full I became. It definitely defeated me, but I lost happy in this case.
-- Perilli - This was my one truly bad experience in Rome. My hotel made a reservation for me at 7:45 on Saturday evening -- as they had made all of my reservations for me without any problems -- but when I arrived (after walking there from Termini station following a long day trip to Tivoli), the man at the door said he had no reservation under my name or my hotel's name, and he insisted that it would be completely impossible to accommodate just one person...despite the fact that there was literally no one there at the time and only about 3/4 of the tables had "reserved" signs on them. He was very rude and dismissive, apparently unwilling to believe that the mistake may have been on the restaurant's part and utterly unympathetic to the fact that he was sending me away with pretty much no chance of getting a table anywhere else. Predictably, I ended up eating at a terrible restaurant that night -- my fritto misto all tasted of old fishy grease and I was given breadsticks in plastic wrappers to accompany my mediocre pasta. Ah well...one bad experience out of dozens is not so bad.
-- Caffe del Chiostro del Bramante: I had a perfectly fine bowl of soup here for a light lunch. It was pretty much right in line with my expectations. I was primarily interested in the lovely setting -- and it was a lovely setting. However, it would have been better when it was actually warm enough to sit outside and take it all in. Of course, it was my fault for not thinking of this ahead of time.
Casual Restaurants – No reservations needed; drop-in lunches.
-- Pizzarium: This was just great. I have to admit that, when I made it here, I wasn't even hungry. Still, I couldn't resist trying a couple of the flavors, and I am so glad I did. I had a potato and cheese and a mortadella and...arugula?...I cannot remember that second one for certain, which is a shame because I loved it. Anyway, you know the food is good if it still impresses you and compels you to eat it despite being full.
-- Gaudeo: I think I chose badly here. I accepted a recommendation from the woman behind the counter for a zucchini and cheese sandwich, and it turned out to be extremely bland. The ingredients were clearly fresh and of good quality. I just felt that the pairing lacked zest.
-- Forno la Renella (included primarily for proximity to hotel): I had some pizza by the slice here one evening -- I think one potato and one rossa. It wasn't bad, but it also wasn't particularly good. It probably suffered in comparison to the outstanding Pizzarium offerings and some of the other pizzas I tried at the bakeries below. I think I was quite spoiled by the overall excellence of what I was eating on this trip. I probably made me more critical than I ought to have been of the somewhat less stellar places.
Ok. I'm going to end this post and move on to bakeries and gelato and "other" in a separate post. I am afraid this is really too long. I hope you guys won't mind. I really am just trying to return some of your generosity...
I did a little solo trip to Rome back in May. I received plenty of good help from the kind people here on CH. Here's what I did:
Armando al Pantheon: I've been there a few times and I've always had good, solid food and was treated well as a solo woman. I have a special spot in my heart for their dessert tarts - and I'm not a big dessert person.
Pizzarium: yummy pizza on the go. It is indeed standup eating - there is one small bench outside on the sidewalk, otherwise you stand.
Roscioli: I thoroughly enjoyed myself there. I had a nice table downstairs and had a very amicable and attentive server. Food was excellent - only time I ever went for every course!
Gelato Artigianal Corona in the Largo Argentina is in my top 2 gelato spots ANYWHERE!!!
Best of lists and must do recommendations usually come with problems. Every local foodie will have a different one.
My list of 'formal' meals would however always include a more traditional roman place like Da Felice in Testacio (where you are indeed more likely to find a table for one at lunch) and a more recent development like Hostaria Glass.
I frowned at your gelato list, as it did not include San Crispino.
All other replies are valid too, especially the one about eating near sites of interest - must go tourist sites tend to attract poor restaurants.
Oh, I wouldn't bump one, just add San Crispino. You should have gelato at least twice a day (for science). I would, however, skip the location near the Trevi Fountain. It gets really crowded and they won't give samples, and pressure you to make a decision and order. I like the one near the Pantheon.
Try not to miss Salumeria Roscioli. It's a fabulous Deli in the daytime and becomes a lovely dining room at night. As for the deli side of things they cure their own meats, have cheeses aged just for them and are famous for some of the best Roman pastas!! You definitely need reservations as they always fill up however there is a tiny bar that has about 4 seats if you are lucky.
I occasionally eat out by myself, and it's not usually a problem.. I'm not sure if I would call any of the restaurants on your first list "formal" except if you mean you should probably book for most of them..
Just had a great dinner at Arcangelo, so I would highly recommend them
Ditirambo is alway very welcoming, and they are more flexible in their hours than many roman restaurants. However, the quality has gone up and down over the years, I haven't eaten there recently but when they are good they are good.
I'm going be contra tendenza and say that I've never thought that Cesare is worth the hike it takes to get out there.I've had fun there when I've gone with people who know them, and the food is fine,but I'm not sure i would go all the way out there to eat alone. I think they are open on Sunday though, that's the primary reason that we end up there.
I would agree to add Trattoria Monti to your list. I think it's better than some of the places you have listed.
There are several good wine bars where you could sit by your self at the bar and have a glass of wine and some snacks after a large lunch. Al vino al vino is one, Il Goccetto over on Banchi Vecchi is another.
Have a good tripe.
though i do love love love cesare, i do agree - going alone might not be worth the effort, as it will limit the number of dishes you can sample and missing the fried antipasti in its whole glory might leave you thinking "so what?". Leave cesare for when you can go with at least 3 others. And yes, they are perfect for sundays (lunch and dinner).
Thanks, KMERC and Vinoroma. I really appreciate your input on Cesare, and I am going to add some notes to my itinerary regarding your recommendations for alternatives. They sound great. I am wondering about the wine bars -- I am a pretty light drinker (usually only have one glass with dinner), and I am not very well-educated when it comes to wine. Would that be awkward in the wine bar settings?
where you would want to eat may depend on where you will be during the day, what you will be doing (are you touring only or do you have business to attend to) and how much you want to travel at night on your own by cab or tram (some of the restaurants selected are a fair distance out)
I know this advice is repetitious on this board (ive given it so many times) but in our experience as touristic visitors, Weve found that having our main meal at lunch often fills in the hole in the middle of the day caused by midday closings, as well as being restful. Then dinner is usually a lighter quicker affair. (to us more appropriate for the late dinner hour.).
;I only have a couple of comments on your list - we were underwhelmed with Valvani - its a period piece, but we were quite disappointed by the actual items we had there - the pangiallo was actually stale..
When staying in that area, we did enjoy the breads and roman tarts at Renella, its a bit rough around the edges, but which is pretty much open all the time, an uncommon advantage; .
re: jen kalb
its a shame since they are touted for their Roman specialties.Husband didnt find the chocolate special either (maybe losing cred, but Im not a chocoholic so cant say)
Elizabeth, who makes good pangiallo and panpepato these days? We found some we liked at Passi on one holidaytime visit, but havent seen these pastries since.
re: jen kalb
I apologize for not supplying enough info.
I am going to be in Rome exclusively for pleasure, and I'm pretty comfortable trekking a bit for a tasty bite. In fact, I'm hoping that going a little bit further afield will expose me to more of Rome. That said, I don't want to spend too much time in a car or on a tram. I want to walk Rome more than anything else. So, do let me know if you think that some of my destinations are particularly trying or time-consuming to access via public transit. For what it's worth, my hotel is in Trastevere.
Regarding the lunch vs. dinner question, I think your recommendation is a good one, and I would like to follow it. My only concern is that trying to accommodate these restaurant selections at lunch time could eat up too much of my day time or place too many strictures on where I can be and what I can see in the day. I'm not really a night person. I tend to run out of steam by the end of the day. So, I don't have many even activities planned for my evening. That's why I don't mind making an out-of-the-way destination the finale of my day. I'm less comfortable committing to a destination in the middle of the day when it could mean that I wouldn't have time to see some of Rome's sights when there is ample daylight.
Maybe my concerns aren't very realistic, though? Perhaps I'm worrying needlessly about losing daylight to great lunch experiences? Are Roman museums and galleries and sights open later than I realize, maybe?
not about food, but you need to pay careful attention to opening hours in making your plans, especially given the short days during your visit. Some places are open all day (the Forum, Pantheon, Vatican, etc) but many museums and most (not all) churches are closed for several hours (often noon-3 or later in midday. Many shops also tend to closeup in midday. This makes it important to get out early during the short-day months and into churches (if they and the art and history they contain are of interest) during the morning hours, since by the time they reopen in late afternoon the sun is going down and many of these places are not very well lighted at all.
After 4, and as the shops open up again, the streets get more bustling until the evening as people stroll the streets, sit in cafes etc, and finally go for dinner, 8 9 or later. If you are not an evening person, you may find a full dinner taken at 9 at a remote location a little hard to take, but the same trip may fit well into the lunch break.
There should be ways by tram to get to some of your locations (Perilli, Gatta Mangiona, Cesare al Casaletto, or maybe bus along the Lungotevere for L'Arcangelo. And there are always taxis, but that late Id tend to focus closer to home it it were me, and remembering the importance of getting up and out in the am...
ps we are very fond of Armando for warm welcome and Roman food when we have lunched there over the years. Having not been to all those on your list, I cannot compare.
re: jen kalb
Thanks again, Jen. I appreciate this advice. I am changing my plans to visit most of the more formal sit-down restaurants at lunch time. Your points about the lighting in the churches and the short winter days are well taken, too! Really, thanks so much for taking the time to provide your input.
You have certainly done your homework!
Here are some comments:
Restaurants: The only odd inclusion is Primo Sale. It's fine, but is there a reason that you'll be in that neighborhood? Is that why you've chosen it?
Renella and Urbani are not restaurants, but are bakeries. They both have take out pizza, is that is what you meant? But Urbani's speciality is mostly their pizza rosso, which I"m not sure would qualify as a meal. Instead, Renella is good for a quick slice.
Also, be aware that Pizzarium is stand up only, and 00100 has very few counter seats.
As for being a solo diner, I wouldn't worry too much about it. In my line of work I"m often dining solo. I think that if you are comfortable on your own, then you're ahead of the game. I've never been treated badly because of dining alone. Actually, just the opposite, the staff usually want to make me even more confortable.
Thanks so much for the input. I was thinking of pizza when I included Renella and Urbani. It sounds I should move them into my "Bakery" category, though. Will do!
I appreciate your opinion on Primo Sale, too. I'm really glad to have a place I can strike from my list to free things up a bit. I honestly can't remember the source for that one. Most of the other places on my list I can track back to a reliable origin. That one is a mystery. Off it goes...
I'm glad you don't think my solo status will be problematic. I have never really worried about it until I saw a few cautionary remarks on it while researching this Rome adventure. Then recently I had a negative experience here in my home town of San Francisco. So, I thought I'd solicit some thoughts here.
One last question -- do you think Armando al Pantheon should replace one of my existing selections? I waffled on it quite a lot, and while I'm really trying to trim my list I wouldn't want to miss a wonderful classic.
I (to my great regret) haven't been to Rome since Armando was renovated but have been hearing wonderful things about it lately--not that it was ever bad. I wouldn't skip it, and the location can't be beat. When I was solo in Rome a couple of years ago, there are two places I found particularly comfortable as a solo diner: L'Arcangelo (wonderful gnocchi) and Al Vino Al Vino (lunch, snack, light dinner if you happen to be in the Monti area). I also met a fellow CH'r, also travelling solo in Rome, for a great dinner at Trattoria Monti. I do second Jen's advice about the main meal at lunch. It works well for a number of reasons, including the opening and closing hours for much that you want to see.
I would eliminate Cesare, which is sort of a hike and may not be so good on your own, and put in Armando. Not only is it a better restaurant (in my opinion) but also, once you finish your meal, you'll be able to walk back through Rome, instead of taking a long and solitary tram ride.